When a child is born to a married woman, the law presumes that the woman’s husband is the child’s father. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. With the rise of over-the-counter DNA testing, many children have begun to discover that their biological father isn’t always the one they called “Dad.” However, the State of Texas or the courts don’t accept these readily available tests to legally establish paternity.
More than 40% of children born in Texas are born to unmarried parents. As we’ve mentioned in a previous blog, the child has no father, and an unmarried father has no rights to his child or children until he claims them.
At the time a child is born, if the parents agree, they can both sign an Acknowledgement of Paternity, which establishes them as legal parents of the child. However, if there is a question about the child’s parentage, or the named or presumed father denies or questions paternity, a Petition To Adjudicate Parentage can be filed. A DNA test may be involved to complete establishment.
The Texas Family Code Chapter 160, Uniform Parentage Act, is the statute that covers the acknowledgment of paternity and adjudication of parentage.
Who Can File
Of course, the mother and the man whose paternity is yet to be determined can file for Petition to Adjudicate Parentage. However, other parties who can file include:
- A representative (i.e., an attorney or other representative)
- Relatives of a deceased individual who, if they were still alive, could have filed a petition
- The parents of a child born through “assisted reproduction”
- Support enforcement agencies, if the mother received child support or state-paid benefits
- Adoption and other child placement agencies
Petition And Hearing
To begin the process, the mother or other interested party must file a petition with the court where the child lives. After filing, the other party will receive a copy of the petition and have an opportunity to respond. Regardless of who files the petition, both the mother and presumed potential father should attend the proceeding.
The results of the court-ordered DNA testing will also be discussed and possibly used to decide paternity. However, the judge has the option to ignore the results of any genetic testing, especially if it’s determined to be in the interest of the child.
When the judge issues the Adjudicate Parent order, the named parent will then be declared the legal father of the child, with all the rights and responsibilities, as well as custody and visitation.
Updating The Birth Certificate
Another reason to file a Petition to Adjudicate Parentage is to update a child’s birth certificate in the event that genetic testing reveals an error in the child’s declared paternity. Once the genetic testing has been confirmed and the child’s father determined, you’ll need to file the petition to obtain a court order to amend the child’s birth certificate. The Texas Bureau of Vital Statistics requires a court order to update a birth certificate.
Hiring a family law attorney to help you with adjudication of parentage will make the process easier, and ensure that it’s done correctly.
Help In Fort Worth With Paternity, Custody, And Other Family Law Issues.
Establishing paternity is one of the most important things you can do for your children. Ensuring that both parents are available and have a strong relationship with the child or children gives them a good start in life.
For more than 20 years, Wendy L. Hart is an experienced family law attorney helping people throughout Tarrant County with visitation and other rights with their children. We work to help you through any family law issues you have, and that your rights are protected. Visit our Mansfield office, use our online contact form, or call us at (817) 842-2336. We’re ready to help.